I am just back from another conference of the Romance Writers of America. I've been to about ten of these since my first in Dallas in 1996. The organization now bears little resemblance to what it was then.
Those were the days only a few of us had published, the days of just a few publishing houses, all print. Many of those who had published were making big bucks and had huge print runs into the hundreds of thousands.
Two years after I attended my first national conference I had the honor of attending the conference in Anaheim, California, sporting my name badge with PAN on it. PAN is the Published Author Network. Only a few of us qualified for PAN before the eBook explosion. I believe an author had to demonstrate that she made $5,000 from one single book to be PAN eligible.
The tables have certainly turned. Now the majority of the membership is PAN, mostly through self publishing or publishing with small eBook publishers who pay no advances. The $5,000 requirement is long gone. The big publishers have slashed print runs, advances have stagnated, and only a rare newcomer gets her book out in print.
|Cheryl Bolen (left) with Beau Monde conference chair |
Ann Chaney following Cheryl's keynote speech.
This year nearly half of those authors nominated for a RITA (romance's highest honor - the equivalent of the Oscars) were self published.
With the exception of huge authors, like Jayne Ann Krentz, who established themselves decades ago, the million dollar authors now are self-published epub phenoms like Marie Force, Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, and Liliana Hart.
Unfortunately, the majority of those self-published authors flooding the market now earn enough annually off one book to pay for a splurge dinner.
Because of what the industry terms "the eBook disruption," my conference experience this year was vastly different. Unlike in the "old days," I was not seeking a power agent. I was not eagerly attending publisher spotlights to learn what editors were looking for. I was not even remotely interested in traditional publishing. I am one of the fortunate authors who came into indie publishing in 2011--the magical year for self publishing--and I've done very well.
I went to several workshops pertaining to indie publishing. These were geared to maximizing your income through Facebook and Amazon advertising and selling your books from your website.
I took copious notes, but I came to a conclusion afterward. I probably won't be spending my time building a set of ads, testing them to see which perform best, then advertising, advertising, advertising. I am a writer. That's what I want to spend my time doing--even though as an indie author, I'm a business woman.
While I know there's a potential to make a much larger income from my 38 titles, I'm happy if I can just continue at the financial level where I am now. My husband has retired after 44 years in the same job, and we want to enjoy our lives together. Writing will always be part of who I am, but I will not be a slave to the marketing that goes along with being a successful author.
Now that I'm home and looking back on the conference, my biggest takeaway was the reconnection with author friends I've made over the past two decades.--Cheryl Bolen, whose latest book is Book 2 in Lords of Eton, The Earl, The Vow and the PlainJane.